International Justice Roundup

Tired of talking about Syria? Over the Olympics? Out of opinions as to whether Hillary will be too old, too female, or too awesome to run in 2016?

Never fear, there’s a whole subgenre of current events news that you’ve been neglecting to chitchat about. Below are three important recent developments in international justice with which to break up the Obamacaregate monotony:

  • Spain puts a(nother) leash on its judges:

On Tuesday, the Spanish Parliament voted to restrict Spain’s universal jurisdiction law to apply only to cases in which the alleged perpetrator is a Spanish national, a foreign resident of Spain, or a foreigner in Spain whom the Spanish government has refused to extradite. Spanish judges (especially El SuperJuez, Baltasar Garzón) have been famous in international legal circles for their aggressive pursuit of foreign human rights abusers for violations committed abroad. They have done this by utilizing Spain’s universal jurisdiction statute, which allowed the prosecution of certain egregious crimes (such as genocide and piracy) no matter where they occurred.

If you’re thinking to yourself that the new version doesn’t sound so “universal”, you would be right. In fact, Spain had already restricted the reach of the courts in 2009 with an amendment limiting the law’s extraterritorial reach to cases with Spanish victims. With the latest change, the courts will now be limited to hearing cases in which both perpetrator and victim are Spanish nationals or residents. Which is pretty much what the Spanish courts would be doing anyway.

  • Ntaganda confirmation of charges hearing opens:

Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, a.k.a. “The Terminator” (no, really) appeared in court at the ICC this week. Ntaganda faces war crimes and crimes against humanity charges for his role in atrocities committed by the UPC rebel group in Eastern DRC during 2002-2003. He does not, as far as we know, face charges for his role in atrocities committed by the CNDP or M23 rebel groups in Eastern DRC during 2006 – 2013.

At the end of this week’s hearings, the Pre-Trial Chamber will decide whether or not to confirm the charges and allow the case to proceed to trial. Meanwhile, his defense attorneys have the unenviable task of attempting to portray Ntaganda as anything other than a warlord and criminal. So far, they’ve tried “peacemaker” on for size; I assume we can look forward to “humanitarian” tomorrow.

  • ICC Prosecutor launches new investigation:

Last Friday, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she would open a new investigation into atrocities in the Central African Republic. (No, not those CAR atrocities, these CAR atrocities.) The security situation in CAR has gotten steadily worse since a March 2013 coup that brought a coalition of armed groups known as the Seleka to power. Although the Seleka was officially disbanded in September 2013, clashes between the predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka elements and the Christian militias formed to oppose them, known as anti-balaka, have continued and intensified.

Bensouda’s statement specifically noted that many of the victims of possible international crimes “appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds”. In a statement yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported that the anti-balaka militias “are increasingly organized and using language that suggests their intent is to eliminate Muslim residents from the Central African Republic”. Together with yesterday’s discovery of a mass grave, these claims lend weight to warnings of large-scale ethnic cleansing or even impending genocide, and suggest that the ICC will have plenty to investigate.

Kate Cronin-Furman

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